Prelude to “The Kiss”

“Mom, can you believe some people’s luck?” he began with such exasperation. “I’m so jealous!”

Okay, before we get any further with this, allow me to roll this story back about five months, to the middle of May 2016, and the start of summer semester in school – human resources management.

               Relevance, you ask? Hold on, I’m getting there!

So, while digging deeper into the required assignments, and doing research to help construct the foundation of my mock HR policy manual, I happened across a wonderful piece of, well let’s just call it “literature” for the sake of tidiness. It was a pilfered, several-years-old handbook for new employees, chock-full of unconventional tips for the corporate newbie, offering a hand to help guide said-tenderfoot through the maze of job assignments, coffee pot etiquette, and even how to not to freak out about the availability of dartboards and massage tables, but to get suspicious in the event of catered lunches with caviar… I know, I started thinking to myself: how do I land a job at THIS place? Dartboards and massages? Yes, please!

Here’s where things start to get interesting…

Reading further, I start to realize what type of company this is – I was genuinely unfamiliar with the organization’s name because the line of work they’re involved in is just not up my alley. However…

“Son, have you ever heard of XYZ Company?” I asked of my youngest, not sure what type of response to expect. His dead-pan expression made it seem as if I had asked him if he had ever heard of a big gaseous ball in the outer reaches of space, bursting forth with an unsurpassed brightness, often referred to as THE SUN. He went on – in small words, so that I was sure to understand the extent of my error and simple-mindedness – to explain the vastness of this company’s reach in their field of expertise. I flipped my laptop around to show him the, umm, illustrations (reminiscent of the Dick and Jane series fame, circa 1930s), and for hours, he and I discussed this XYZ Company in great detail. It was a wonderful bonding moment for us –bringing together one of his passions alongside one of my school obligations, and cemented the idea that education isn’t necessarily droll. The highlight: finding out that XYZ Company resided in our own backyard! At that point, my son decided he wanted to gear his upcoming studies toward nearing his feet to their front door. Goals are a good thing!

So, fast forward back to Saturday afternoon…

No! Wait, not that far! (No, no – hear me out! If I skip this bit, nothing will make sense, trust me!!)

So, THURSDAY, at work, one of my clients sends over some last minute documentation for filing; I make a quick comment to him about something I notice regarding, yep, XYZ Company, and he says “Oh yeah! Did some this-and-that for them; great bunch of folks!” I throw in a “my son would be so jealous” comment, mentioning it’s his aspiration to work there in the future, and get hit with a “my friend so-and-so works there full-time, how about I see if he can hook you guys up with a tour?” Umm, yes, please! Emails start flying Thursday, and by the end of day on Friday, I’m in touch with “the friend” at XYZ Company, who’s helping to secure my nomination for “Mom of the Year” award! Get this: I’m asked if we’d prefer being put on the list for the ‘group tour’, or if we’d rather just tag alongside “the friend” on a personal exploration… Seriously?! I can’t breathe!! And I can’t tell my son; I’m keeping this a secret!

Okay – NOW on to Saturday!

Completely – and I do mean completely!! – out the blue, he’s talking about how he’s jealous of his buddy, and I’m clamoring to find out why. (He doesn’t seem to be “upset” in this jealous rage; it’s more of an exuberant jealousy, which I’m guessing is a good thing…) As the story goes, his friend has posted pictures he took – wait for it!!! – while. on. a. tour. of. XYZ Company headquarters! Really?? I had to know: a group tour?? How did he score a deal like THAT?? My son didn’t have the answers, and based on the dates the pictures were originally uploaded to his social media page, the tour was over two years ago. Still, it was genuinely something to be excited about. Me? I felt as if an elephant was standing on my chest as I tried to share in my son’s covetousness, full-knowing what adventures lay just around the corner!

I wanted to say something! Oh, it took everything within me to keep that secret bottled up; to not blow my cork and say something foreshadowing like “just wait a week” or “you’re a pretty lucky kid, too, you know?” Oooohhhh! The suspense, people!

 

          (side bar: this will actually be the THIRD ‘big-reveal’ secret I’ve been involved with this year – first, flying down with my two children to surprise my mother for her birthday/Mother’s Day; second, flying my mother and one of my nephews up to my area and surprising my daughter on her birthday by having her Grandma at her birthday dinner; and now, this! I KNOW what I want the next surprise to be; the details just haven’t panned out yet…)

 

It’s Tuesday, and this spectacular event is slated to take place on Thursday. I’m hoping my heart can hold out for two more days!

Giddy… can’t breathe!

On. Fire.

This girl is ON. FIRE.

Before you start waving disproportionately large foam fingers and flapping poster-board banners amid chants and cheers in rousing support, let me drizzle a damper on your enthusiasm… I know, right – nobody’s questioning anymore why I’m at home, writing a blog on the weekends and not out hooping and hollering and creating a general ferfuffle of mayhem with a group of scantily-clad lady-friends, tipping our frou-frou drinks as we climb up on tables to dance and sing and… Ah, who am I kidding? I’m not even sure I watch movies where the main characters do that! Anyway, back to the “fire” and “extinguisher”…

Last week, I hit mid-point in my classes – YAY! (Okay, foam fingers and poster-board banners accepted HERE!) However, in order to do so, I pushed myself to limits that were extreme. Let me see if I can put this into perspective: this past Monday – just a couple days ago – was the first time in 10 days that I went to bed before it was “tomorrow”, and I’m not talking about a leisurely stroll across the PM/AM threshold! Most “nights” ended around 3am, with dry, scratchy eyes, clenched jaw, a crabby dog chasing a bewildered cat on a trek from the laptop to the bed. From there, I’d muster enough energy to pet/lecture the bellowing feline from upstairs (yes, I have one cat that’s afraid to come downstairs, but at the same time suffers from separation anxiety – go figure!) to remove himself from my bathroom sink long enough to afford me a swipe with the toothbrush, drop my frame onto the mattress, only to start the process again at 6am. Lucky for me exhaustion helped induce rapid sleep – most “nights” I couldn’t recall five minutes after pressing my head to the pillow… But, after a while, a routine like that catches up with you. *Spoiler alert: I don’t run very fast!*

The vicious one-two-three pounding of Thursday, Friday and Saturday were definitely my undoing. There was a HUGE group project due in one class, and one quarter of our group was M.I.A. There were fourteen parts to the assignment, and 8 of those fourteen parts had over 5 parts to them. So, in essence, the project actually had over 60 parts to it, and we were a man down! I couldn’t spare any time at the office, because, well, I had work to do there (duh!), and even had an obligation to be present one evening at a school function for my youngest child. I forewent the concept of eating to save time, stretched minutes into hours in front of the computer, compiling data, analyzing ratios and forecasts, formatting spreadsheets, and composing technical mumbo-jumbo to coincide with the charts and graphs that would comprise our group project. I managed two and a half hours of sleep Thursday “night” before heading out the door for a full day at the office. Friday night quickly became Saturday morning, and the sun was up before I went down! I stole five and half hours’ sleep that morning, but repeated the process that next night – teetering off to bed Sunday morning about 5am, and returning to the glow of the computer screen at 9:30 that morning. All of the week’s assignments were due by 9pm local time. Oh, yes, I guess I failed to mention that besides the group project, I had FOUR other individual assignments to complete that week! Luckily, two were done already (the smallest of all the assignments that week), but the other two required a colossal amount of reading – not my forte! 200 pages in one book, and 15 peer-reviewed articles for the other assignment. Ugh. With six minutes to spare, I had all my homework turned in! (Again, foam fingers and poster-board banners…)

That’s when the stress level lowered, and the auto-immune triggers started their pyrotechnic display!

I was reluctant to head to bed early Sunday night (that’s its own blog post, trust me!) and so I kept with tradition, and meandered toward my room around 1am (relatively early for me)… Halfway through the night, I woke to immense pain. My legs ached and my skin felt as if it was on fire! The mere contact of one foot against the other and my right calf resting atop my left calf as I lay curled on my left side created sparks throughout my nerve endings. I slowly reached my arm to brush the blanket away from my legs, and struggled through the stiffness in my shoulder. Wow! I. Was. A. Mess.

By the time 6am rolled around, I was cognizant of the leg pain, the resurgence of the right shoulder ache, and was presented with tenderness and aching in the left elbow, additional “fiery” skin sensation along the mid and lower back, and non-stop pain in my left thigh and right thumb (two pains that I was aware of and have been dealing with for some time now – at least the left thigh… see Power Through the Pain). In as long as I’ve had fibromyalgia, this was quite possibly the worst flare-up I’d ever experienced! My wily schedule had definitely caught up with me, and I was paying a hefty price!

For two days, I quietly endured the “fiery” flesh at work; however, Tuesday was coupled with a few other ailments – most likely because I took a low-dose muscle relaxant Monday evening on my way to a full seven hours of sleep! (The muscle relaxants do their job wonderfully; however, they and my stomach don’t always have such a complaisant relationship…) I had to rein myself in, contact the appropriate personnel, and eventually just leave my poor, wrecked body in bed for hour upon hour.

I’m happy to report that the “fire” has scaled back tremendously; my left thigh, left elbow, right shoulder, and right thumb are still giving me fits, but at least I’m not writhing in agony if my legs touch, anything! Rejoice in the little victories, my friends!

          Speaking of little victories, twenty-three days left of school! Then I can actually get to writing my stories again! No more 12-page research reports! Woo-hoo!

Reverse Psychology

I know I’m not the best parent that ever lived. Heck, I doubt I’m even the best parent on our block! Probably not even the best parent in our triplex, and Brandy and Steve haven’t even been parents for a full year yet… That’s not to say I don’t try, though!

And despite having a completely overloaded schedule, I still allowed my childhood companion, high school counselor, lifelong roomie, and long-time nemesis, Guilty Conscience, to whisper in my ear, “What kid is going to remember that you did this or that task for ‘their benefit’? What they’re going to remember is whether you took the time to spend time with them!” Gee, thanks, GC! You’re brilliant!

So, at the request of my 14-year-old, who oddly enough, broke character and rambled on in the kitchen for over 40 minutes (he’s a two – to – three sentence kind of kid, usually) about this new television program he happened upon, all while I prepared our dinner, I set aside the school books, and agreed to watch the pilot episode with him (thank you, Netflix, for your diverse library of programming). I did, so rudely, though, preface my response with the explanation that it could only be one episode on this particular evening, as I did need to continue on with my homework assignments – obligations are obligations, after all, and even in showing my propensity for taking time for quality time, I needed to also demonstrate that I was a responsible person!

The show was as interesting as he described, and it opened the opportunity for some informed and thought-provoking conversation between the two of us. I promised him we would re-visit the show as time allowed. Unfortunately, he didn’t like the idea of having to wait – although I didn’t exactly ask him to. By the time he invited me to join him in watching the program, he was already at Episode Five (proof positive that he didn’t have to wait for me), and wanted to advance forward. He learned quickly that I was not going to sit and binge-watch with him this time! Sorry, kiddo!

Okay, so here’s where things get complicated…

Remember, I already admitted my failure at “perfect parenting”, so no finger-wagging!

There are those times – definitely not right now, in the midst of these two heavy-homework-laden courses in school, but believe me when I say instances have presented themselves – when I have NOTHING better to do than to let my brain rot away, watching rerun after rerun of “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives”, and my beloved 14-year-old cannot divert his eyes from whatever electronic device holds him prisoner, not even long enough to acknowledge my existence. Do I say something? No. Do I unplug said device? No. Do I restrict future screen time? (I know I probably should, but please refer to previously posted disclaimer) No…

I think the most “reckless” thing I’ve done in such an instance was refuse to cook dinner when I couldn’t get a response to what he wanted to eat that evening. I called – TWICE! – on my way home from the office. I texted and asked for a return phone call. No response to anything. So I came home. And when he continued to stare at the computer screen, I simply curled up on the sofa with the hyper pup, a ginger beer and the tv remote. Was I worried about his nutritional well-being? Not really. He knows how to cook soup, eggs, pizza, potatoes, pasta… And if he wanted to be lazy but still indulge his taste buds, there was microwave popcorn, a variety of cereals available, as well as fixings for black bean nachos. I knew he wouldn’t starve. I just refused to put forth the effort myself since he wasn’t going to acknowledge my existence. On that same night, I even went up to bed without so much as a word to him (it was a Friday night). He didn’t stop to say “hi” or “hey” or “Delilah chewed up another soda bottle cap” (our dog; don’t ask!) Not a word. So I responded in-kind.

However, it seems without fail, the moment I mention I have a cascading mountain of assignments to attend to, and I beg for him to respect my need for quiet time, he all of a sudden becomes a social butterfly, or is absolutely compelled to find the loudest, most obnoxious, disruptive television programming the satellite dish in our yard can siphon from the cosmos. Really?! We have ONE television in our domicile, so it’s not as if he’s holed up in his room, channel-surfing. No, he’s sprawled out on the sofa, bag of potato chips rustling under the weight of his scavenging fist, making sure to ignore the passage of time and continue to fill the air with static noise. And because of the less-than-ideal wi-fi service offered in our area (only one provider, so it’s not like I can shop around for another provider – the only other option is paying 3 times as much to the same provider for “upgraded” speeds…), I’m trapped down in the adjacent dining room area, feverishly working on my laptop.

Not only that, but he’ll decide that on the weekend when I’m utterly slammed with research papers and exams, that he will simply die if he can’t have his long-time buddy come hang out at the house. What drives me up a wall is that despite MY need for solitary time in order to accomplish tasks, I end up having to be the chauffeur, the chef, the entertainment director, the moderator, the maid, and still manage to take care of my own checklist. “You do understand, I have a lot of homework to get done…” The empty promises of silence and respect for my work time; why do I fall for it?? I want my son to be social, to interact with his friends – to have a life away from the computer screen! I just don’t understand why he always seems to choose solitude and YouTube when there are no prerequisites on my time, but when I need a few hours of silence to devour the concept of balanced scorecards and product innovation, he can’t help but ponder, “I wonder how many episodes of this preposterous program I can watch before the sun comes up?”

I think I need to start using reverse psychology with him again, like when he was 4 or 5 years old. Please, make all the noise you want! Why don’t you invite your friends over? You don’t want to just sit there and stare at the computer screen all day, do you? Maybe then he’ll hunker down and not acknowledge my existence, allowing me ample quiet time (aside of the dog’s crazed barking fits, and the cat’s bellowing from the landing upstairs) to complete my assignments! Four and half more weeks to go!

Thirty days, and counting…

Challenge: ACCEPTED!

Oh dear, what treacherous unscripted suicidal plot have I unearthed?!

Sure, challenges help build character, and testing limits often brings to light unsubstantiated boundaries.

But this? Chainsaws! High octane, rip-roaring, mauling “metal teeth of fury” chainsaws!

I’m concurrently skipping around with hula-hoops encircling my ankles, running up and down forty miles of highway daily, to and from the office, performing like a circus monkey for the corporate hierarchy while simultaneously monitoring the parade of cavorting high-school-aged monkeys and  tossing baked peanuts and other protein-rich snacks their direction – to fend off “h-anger” attacks. I’ve already got the spinning plates of Master’s classes, piled high with research reports, group projects, and computerized tests, delicately balanced so that their coinciding due dates match perfectly with governmental filing deadlines.

This is just throwing chainsaws into the mix!

Maybe chainsaws and raw eggs…

… chainsaws and feather pillows …

(no, wait! I think I’m just overly tired – note to self: must get more than 13 hours sleep over the course of 4 nights)

Sorry about that!

So, where were we? Oh, yes! Chainsaws and raw eggs… I think that’s the best I can do right now. I could go down the lines of juggling chainsaws in yellow rain slickers, since after all, the concept is ‘preparing for a rainy day’, but that would be a bit absurd, don’t you think?

While perusing another blogger’s site, I came across this 30-day challenge, and who doesn’t love a challenge, right? (…me! I hate challenges… oh, wait, rhetorical question… sorry…) The task: “Blog Ahead”! Now, what does that mean exactly? The concept is to carve out time during this challenge period, preceded only by a budget-breaking jaunt to the nearest Costco to stockpile every tasty packaged carbohydrate, gallons of your preferred caffeinated “go-juice”, and perhaps the obligatory fruit, vegetable, and theatre-box of chocolatey confections, hermit yourself away from the outside world, draped in your trusty flannel camp shirt (you know the one – with the singed hole in the pocket where the hot ember from the popping log burrowed its way to a quick death) and tie-waist knit pants that mop the floor with each step, and simply because you’ve committed yourself to this challenge, release the floodgates of unsurpassed inspiration, harmonious word synergy, and captivating musings without nary a hiccup or belch, and emerge after 30 days, with a surplus of 30 “stockpiled” blog posts, for those times when inspiration is as fleeting as a bargain price on gasoline, or when, you know, life.

For someone such as myself – one who has chosen to post once a week as opposed to every day (please refer to ‘note to self’ earlier in this post…) – the end result would be to have 30 blog posts in addition to the (*ahem* conceivably already written *insert laugh here*) four blog posts for the month of October (there being four Tuesday/Wednesdays in the month of October in 2016), for a total of 34 blog posts, from which I could pick and choose as circumstances dictate.

That seems all well and good. But for anyone who has read my posts (this one included), it is obvious I’m not a “pre-written blog post” kind of poster. And why is that? Because it’s not in my character – usually. However what I do find intriguing about this challenge (aside of the host site’s name – seriously! “Herding Cats & Burning Soup”! I just had to join, on that name alone!!), is the incentive to spend some time at least cultivating post ideas, AND massaging those ideas that have already manifested themselves over the past several weeks, but that I’ve neglected due to other hula-hoops, toasted peanuts, cavorting monkeys, and spinning plates…

So, before any chainsaws get thrown into the mix, I’m heading to Costco for a silo of Pepsi and a box of four-cheese rice crackers (don’t judge!), I’m ramping up my research skills so that final reports are nothing shy of technical “blog posts”, and alerting my circle… triangle (??)… of friends that I’ll be off the radar until after the Great Pumpkin visits with Linus in the pumpkin patch.

Anyone else up for chainsaws and eggs?? Here’s a link to sign up for the fun challenge!

http://www.herdingcats-burningsoup.com/2016/08/Blog-Ahead-Sign-Up-2016.html#more

Next on the menu: …peanut butter severed monkey finger omelets… or, feather pillows…

“6,810”

Have you ever found yourself feeling both exhilarated and exhausted at the same time? I’m starting to believe those two emotions are conjoined twins – opposite sides of the same coin! The likelihood that you’ve encountered one side of that coin toss, staring face up, almost guarantees that the other is resting itself peacefully against the palm of your hand. And no sooner do you exhale, whether it be the flutter of exuberant delight or a sigh of dilapidated effort, than find that coin flip-flop like a cornered politician.

I have successfully completed my first week of school this semester, and may I just say, I’m ready to raise the white flag and simply walk away … before finding a suitable jumping point. These are the last two classes in my master’s program, so it’s not as if I haven’t endured the pleasure of taking two classes at one time; as a matter of record, this is the fifth time I’ve accomplished such a task. And in the previous ten courses completed, I can’t say that there are any that I recall as being anything above mildly inauspicious; at best, they were all dismal. However, I don’t know that business courses aspire to anything more than that… These courses are holding true to their initial impressions, and have taken quite a substantial chunk (of time, of inspiration, of research, of sacrifice) to complete. Whereas I was able to successfully submit all assignments on time, and even display an ounce of post-‘posting’ jubilation at the fact that I did so with 35 minutes to spare, that’s not to say it did not come without a price.

Several nights last week blurred into early morning before my bunned-up hair and burning corneas found solace far away from the computer screen, even if it was to only rest my head on the pillow for 3 meager hours… Luckily the true fall schedule hadn’t kicked in yet, and I was afforded the luxury of stealing an extra half-hour of shut-eye, not playing slave to the school bus… However, as of tomorrow (well, looking at the clock, technically, it would today), it’s all hands on deck at 6:20 am, and rumps out the door by 6:55 am! No more snooze… And as my youngest child agonized and whimpered over the thought of beginning a new school year, I sneered and snorted, and growled “six thousand, eight hundred and ten” with the sting of venom. A smirk was the response I received. “6,810”.

6,810 is the word count for my first week at school. With a total of seven written assignments due this initial week, the culminating word count was 6,810 words. For a writer, whose typical goal is 500 words per day, I had definitely blown that “average” out of the water! Unfortunately none of what was written is of any interest to anyone who isn’t studying operational management or strategy in global competition (at least I think those are the course titles – I don’t remember; at this point, they’re all blending together). A daily average word count of 973 words! Whew! And that’s not even taking into consideration the 7 chapters of reading in two different (yawn!) textbooks, plus searching, researching, reading and annotating 10 or 12 (peer-reviewed) articles in order to write said words, and a chapter quiz to boot! Oh yes, then there’s the whole “job” thing, and the “parent” thing, and the … well, you get the picture… so, it wasn’t with undue pride that I celebrated my victorious accomplishment – 35 minutes still “on the clock” was a mini-miracle!

Already entrenched in Week Two, I’ve completed two of the four writing assignments; granted, they are the easier ones of the bunch. This week’s word count is already at 935, and I’m anticipating a total by week’s end of nearly 4,200. Five peer-reviewed articles have already been devoured en route to accomplishing the writing assignments completed thus far; the remainder of my reading this week will be all textbook – 5 more chapters (insert a sigh of dilapidated effort). Here’s the flip side, though: as I inhaled, straightening myself in front of the computer keyboard, poised to attack the required assignments of Week Two, a sobering thought turned my exhaustion into exhilaration… Seven more weeks…

That’s it, folks.           Seven. More. Weeks.

It’s hard not to relish in that thought! 45 short days, and this will all be over. So, yes, I may have my sought out a white flag after a grueling first week, and I’m not sure I’m ready to see it dance in the breeze just yet, or am I apt to relinquish my tender grasp on it either. I think for now I shall wrap it around myself like a shawl or sarong, ever so close, but with the playfulness of a summer day.

Until next time…

Devour

Have you ever heard the question: “How do you eat an elephant?”

 

Those that haven’t might seem a bit perplexed by such an odd question; those that have, and have been presented with its oddly profound and yet remarkably simplistic answer may understand where I’m going with this…

 

A mere 13 days ago (eek! That’s not even a full two weeks – time flies, doesn’t it?!), I published my very first blog post, WET PAINT ( https://smudgedblogblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/18/wet-paint ). From there, two more posts: TIME TO DREAM ( https://smudgedblogblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/21/time-to-dream-time-for-dreams ) and POWER THROUGH THE PAIN ( https://smudgedblogblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/24/power-through-the-pain ). It hasn’t been too drastically long since my last post; however, I also find that due to persistent lack of sleep (four hours a night really is not adequate, folks!), the days are beginning to blend together in a heap of overcast haze dotted by trepidation about the upcoming fall semester.

 

Several weeks ago, I was anxious, in a good sort of way – if that’s even possible. Enrollment was set for my final two classes in pursuit of my MBA. Books were ordered, and now it was just a matter of time before the official start date. A week before, I was able to log on and download the course requirements, getting a firsthand look at the assignments in detail, and having the opportunity to mentally prepare myself for the task ahead…

 

Oh. My.

 

Not that I’m an analytical person by any means (that’s a satirical joke; you’ll catch on…), I started adding up the anticipated word counts on the assignments due for each of the two classes… In comparison to a standard fiction/mystery novel (80,000 words), in total, these classes will have me writing the equivalent of nearly half a novel – in eight weeks’ time! And trust me when I say the subject matter is anything but page-turning! 38,000 words… on operations management, and strategy in global competition. Yep, that’s right! Look at me, doing the ‘happy dance’, knowing that for the next two months, I’ll be spending my non-working waking hours researching outputs, functionality, mass customization, core capabilities, service gaps, and AFI frameworks, crafting SWOT and supply chain management analyses, describing strategic implementation practices, and generally trying not to write myself into a glassy-eyed stupor! 38,000 words! An average of 703 words a day, for the next 54 days… And that’s just the writing assignments! Three separate textbooks, each with at least 12 chapters – also to be read within those eight weeks, along with all the research necessary to complete the 38,000 words of writing!

 

So, I return to the question: “How do you eat an elephant?”

 

The answer: One bite at a time…

 

Simple, I know. Simple, and profound.

 

These two classes – my last two classes – are proving to be behemoths; however, as with any plate, piled high with all the makings of a monumental feast, I dive in, fork and knife firmly in grasp. And if my next few posts arrive late, please forgive me: my mother taught me to chew quietly, chew thoroughly, and not to talk with my mouth full!